In a company where employees are expected to produce every single day, whether it be thousands of nutritious meals for the Public School System’s students or hundreds of fresh bread and pastries for the community to consume, five Herman’s Modern Bakery employees never get tired putting in the hard work.
These pillar employees have been with the bakery for decades and still treat every day as if it is their first day at work—engaged, committed, and dedicated.
Wilma Dellota, 59, has been working for the Guerrero family for 20 years. She first came to Saipan as a house worker for one of the Guerrero family and then ventured out to work in a hotel for three years. She then found herself returning to the Guerreros as a cook for their catering business with the Public School System. It has been 10 years since.
“Going back to work for the Guerreros felt so natural, like coming home. …Aside from having a good relationship with my co-workers, where helping each other out and cooperation is never amiss, the management invests in our wellbeing, empower us to have a good life and they connect my passion, which is cooking, to their vision, which is to always serve quality and delicious meals,” she said.
Dellota’s work starts at 3am and she is at it until 11am every day. Waking up to start work while the rest of the world sleeps has given her joy, instead of resentment.
“My work is a combination of food preparation and cooking them. The thought of feeding over 2,000 schoolchildren may be a daunting task but when you love the work that you do, it doesn’t feel like a huge responsibility,” she said.
“How management treat us is a big portion of why I love my job and how deeply committed I am. The Guerrero family doesn’t treat us as ‘just employees’ but as family,” she added.
Being treated like family doesn’t necessarily mean that the Guerreros are lax and complacent in the workplace. “They know what they are doing and being in the business for 75 years is not an easy task. They are organized and manage everyone at work and with that also comes how they make you feel valued and often recognize you for a job well done,” she said.
“Unlike other employers I have experienced, the Guerreros do not shout at you or pin you down for your mistakes. Instead, they point out the problem and give advice on how to correct them. We communicate very well and, with the high level of transparency, we feel trusted and an important part of the company,” she added.
Cook Supervisor Teresita ‘Tess” De la Rosa has been with Herman’s Modern Bakery for 10 years. She oversees the whole operation in the kitchen and that includes managing 12-15 people and the dispatch of food that go to several schools on Saipan.
“Since I also start work at 3am, one of the challenges in my work happens when one of the cooks is sick and can’t come to work. Since it is early in the morning, I cannot bother anyone so it is up to me to step up to the plate and make the system work as over 2,000 children depend on us for their meals at school,” she said.
At 66 years old, de la Rosa is counting her last days at the bakery as she is set to retire this month. “It is time for me to be with my children and grandchildren and, although majority of retirees look forward to this day, I leave with a heavy heart as I really love working here,” she said.
“I will miss the everyday grind, my co-workers, and the Guerreros. It has been a blessing working for this family. I never experienced being criticized and if I commit mistakes, they talk to me in a professional way—no embarrassing you in front of other co-workers,” she said.
De la Rosa will only have good memories of the bakery when she retires. “The joy that I get in working here for the last 10 years is about running a smooth operation. …Everyone has the same goal—First, provide the meals that the children will find delicious, and second, the love and care of the management. The Guerreros are successful in what they do because they treat people [well],” she added.
Production manager Ernesto “Ernie’ N. Lineses, who oversee the daily production of the bakery, from work schedules of 30 bakers and 10 assistants, to quality control of every product and order deliveries, has logged the most number of years of working at Herman’s Modern Bakery—40 years.
He was hired by Juan “Pan” Guerrero in 1978 by accident.
As he tells it, Juan “Pan” Guerrero had gone to Manila to hire bakers and, for the trade test of those bakers, he went to the Goody Goody Bakery on V. Mapa Street in Manila where Lineses was employed as a baker.
“I toured Mr. Guerrero in the bakery and, at the end of the day, he didn’t find the kind of bakers he was looking for and since he saw how I worked, he recruited me and four other bakers to come to Saipan in 1979. Out of the five bakers, I am the one left standing and still working for Herman’s.”
At 69 years old, Lineses said that coming to Saipan to work was a life changer. “The opportunity to get hired and work here is a one-in-a-million chance. I showed my skills and dedication to the company and, in return, I was trusted by the family and management and because of this, I made it my mantra to always go beyond my responsibilities.”
“The management communicates very well with us. As a production manager, they solicit my opinion and utilize it as often as possible. We are always after the welfare of the bakery and of the products—what’s good and bad about it and how it can be improved,” he added.
As a baker most of his life, Lineses said there is really no secret ingredient in baking. “The real secret ingredient is here (points to his heart). In baking, you can easily find all the ingredients in cookbooks and the internet but it is really the process that counts most. I believe that baking from the heart is what makes Herman’s Modern Bakery stand out from the rest.”
Herman’s Modern Bakery continues to grow with their products. A recent addition are healthy options breads: their wheat bread and four-seeds bread.
“We listen to what our customers need and…it helps with the bakery’s development. All of our bread is made of quality ingredients from Australia and the U.S. mainland. We never take anything for granted because we want to maintain the quality of bread that was produced 75 years ago, which people love,” Lineses said.